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Report finds more than 40% of Milwaukeeans are working 'bad jobs'

New study finds that 40% of Milwaukee residents are working "bad" jobs.
Tom Sanfilippo/Inside Out Aerial
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A new study found more than 40% of Milwaukee residents are working "bad jobs."

Have you ever had a bad job? You know, the kind of job where you don’t make enough money to afford basic necessities, the hours are volatile and you don’t get any benefits like health care coverage or vacation time.

Well if you have, you’re not alone. Currently, more than 40% of Milwaukee residents are working in what a new report by Center of Wisconsin Strategy, or COWS, defines as “bad jobs.” COWS is a research and policy center at UW-Madison.

The report looked the jobs people living in the city of Milwaukee have — whether the job itself is located in the city or not. It found of the 240,000 workers that live in Milwaukee, 100,000 workers are being paid less than $15 an hour, while the remaining 140,000 are making $15 or more. These "bad," or low-quality, jobs are mainly in arts and entertainment, retail and food service.

Laura Dresser, the associate director of COWS, says, "What you're really seeing is what's going on in the bottom of the labor market is quite substantially different from what's going on in better jobs."

What compounds the difference between the lower or higher paying jobs is the "bad jobs" most often lack benefits like health insurance and paid time off. Dresser believes the conditions of these jobs can be improved.

She says, "I think the first thing that really changes these jobs is the workers themselves. And we've seen a lot of both collective and individual, and formal and informal approaches to changing this work, and you see that in the wage trends. The other thing is the policy around these jobs — especially to make that rebalancing more sustainable to think about the policy around the minimum wage and its enforcement."


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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